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Archeologists find world's oldest tea in Chinese emperor's tomb

January 2016

Oldest brew known to man

Archeologists unexpectedly discovered the world's oldest known tea leaves while working on a tomb belonging to an emperor of the Han Dynasty. The nearly 2,200-year-old tomb, discovered in the 1990's and located near the modern-day city of Xi'an in western China, included pottery figures and weapons, as well as a wealth of plants. Only after decades of analysis could the scientists finally confirm that some of them were actually tea leaves, giving a unique glimpse into ancient Chinese tea culture. The discovery of this fine tea, characterized by young unopened buds, suggests that tea was already being exported to Tibet along trade routes well before the Silk Road.

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How medical research on tea can shape your target audience

February 2012

New business consultant?
Evidence about health benefits of tea continues to pile up in 2012. The year is barely a couple of months old, yet it has already witnessed several studies and reviews confirming long-held assumptions about the positive effects of tea drinking. The most noteworthy one is probably a Japanese study that found that green tea drinkers have a lower risk of frailty and disability as they grow older. Over 14,000 elderly citizens were followed for 3 years, which is no small feat in itself, and shows just how rigorous research around tea has become. Green tea drinkers were shown to suffer less from functional disabilities in performing everyday tasks like bathing or dressing. Interpreting these results in the context of West’s aging population shows how much potential the beverage may have as a healthy and cost-effective alternative (or supplement) to traditional medication.

But green tea was not the only variety in the spotlight. A study from Australia and a review from the UK lent further credence to the notion that black tea is just as healthy as its green cousin. According to research, black tea was found to lower blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. It may also cut levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood sugar. Again, given that heart disease is one of the major causes of death in industrialized countries, the regular cuppa is starting to look like an increasingly promising and unobtrusive solution to keep your health in check.

From a business point of view, tea manufacturers operate under two long-held beliefs: that the 30-50 year old female is the current primary customer and that conquering the young and hip generation of teens and twentysomethings is the only way to expand the category in the years to come. Both points are certainly valid, but they somewhat fail to reflect the economic and demographic realities of today. That is because the future, at least for the next couple of decades at least, actually belongs an entire population of baby-boomers that is currently entering retirement.

With vast amounts of wealth and legitimate concerns about ageing and health, this target should not be forgotten by tea businesses. Yes, that population may be not as gastronomically sophisticated or as creatively minded as others, yet no manufacturer or retailer can afford to neglect its impact on the bottom line, especially given that tea is so relevant to its health concerns. Indeed, most of the prominent health benefits of tea, such as reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, Alzheimer’s and obesity, to name but a few, are obviously more relevant to a baby boomer than a college student. Add to that increased health and medical awareness, more free time to enjoy meals (and brew proper tea), as well as the spending power that the elderly possess and you’ve got an offer difficult to refuse.

Viewed in this light, these medical studies are more than just about tentative scientific findings, because they may point to a somewhat new direction for the entire tea industry. Despite limitations on health claims in marketing, they offer new ways of thinking about the relevance and potential of a population that goes unnoticed far too often.

Stepas Parulis is the editor of TeaTrends and oversees Adagio's operations in Europe. He analyzes the tea industry through the prism of market and consumer trends.

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